Legislature considers increasing tuition assistance for National Guard members

Lawmakers could approve over $11 million for National Guard students this session.

by Max Chao

Student veterans could see more tuition help if a bill passes the Minnesota Legislature.

A bill, gaining steam Senate and House committees, would add $11.54 million in tuition incentives for University of Minnesota National Guard members. The request is up from past budget years, which lawmakers said was meant to mirror added participation in the program.

The Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee sent a bill to the Finance committee Tuesday to allocate funds to the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. A House version of the bill has also been heard in committees.

“[Tuition reimbursement] is an important enlistment incentive for us to be able to draw when competing with the other services,” said Minnesota Department of Military Affairs Executive Director Don Kerr.

Army National Guard enlistees who pass their courses are eligible for up to 100 percent tuition reimbursement at any college in the state, with a cap at the Twin Cities campus’ rate, Kerr said.

“I think it’s going to attract more interest in the Minnesota National Guard … it’s only going to [attract] more quality applicants who want to come in and join the guard,” said Lt. Col. Collin Keenan, professor of military sciences at the University.

The program offers bonuses for those who’ve completed between six and 13 years of service, who serve in areas that require EMT certification and first-time service members.

Around 1,900 service members currently use of the program, Kerr said.

“We’re supportive of a variety of different funding opportunities to help them be successful and graduate on time,” said Julie Selander, OneStop student services director the University.

Kerr said the DMA requested a lower amount in the previous biennium, but raised its request because more people were making use of the program than expected.

Another factor was a federal reform that lowered tuition funding and caused state reimbursement to fill in the gap, according to Minnesota Management and Budget documents.